Rubik’s Cube

by curiousmiscellany

curious misc - rubiks cube

In honor of the recent trip my sister and I took to Budapest, this entry is dedicated to one of the city’s claims to fame: the Rubik’s Cube. This colorful, loveable and yet incredibly frustrating three-dimensional puzzle with over 43 quintillion possible configurations (43,252,003,274,489,856,000 to be exact) is the invention of Ernő Rubrik, the son of a poetess and an aircraft engineer. Rubrik himself studied sculpture and architecture at the Academy of Applied Arts and Design in Budapest, where he began to teach after graduating. In 1974, while designing models to help his students look at space in new ways, he stumbled upon the idea of a rotating cube, consisting of smaller interlocking cubes. Of this prototype, Rubrik said, “It was wonderful, to see how, after only a few turns, the colors became mixed, apparently in random fashion. It was tremendously satisfying to watch this color parade. Like after a nice walk when you have seen many lovely sights you decide to go home, after a while I decided it was time to go home, let us put the cubes back in order. And it was at that moment that I came face to face with the big challenge: what is the way home?” Seeing the value in the product and with a push from various friends, Rubrik sought out a toy company that would produce the cube in Hungary. Initially called the “Magic Cube”, the puzzle adopted its inventor’s name when it was released to the West– an extreme feat of negotiation since the then-Communist government of Hungary had to give its permission. Within just a few years of its international launch, over one million Rubik’s cubes had been sold, speedcubing competitions were held around the world (the current world record, by the way,  is 5.5 seconds), and the puzzle was inducted into MoMA’s design collection. Rubrik became the first self-made millionaire to come out of Hungary. And yet, with all of the success (to borrow the words from another self-made millionaire, JLo): he’s still, he’s still Ernő from the (Communist) block / used to have a little, now he has a lot / no matter where he goes, he knows where he came from. In fact, Rubrik established the Rubrik Foundation, which supports young designers from Hungary and the Rubrik Studio, a game design studio in Budapest that remains active today.

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